Albuquerque, NM—Today, health experts and community leaders held a press conference to release a new educational video drawing attention to children's health risks from toxic chemicals in microwave popcorn. The fun and engaging video also shows viewers how to make safer microwave popcorn using nontoxic household ingredients. The video was released after independent lab testing found per/polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in 100% of microwave popcorn samples purchased from dollar stores.
PFAS chemicals can confuse our bodies' hormones and have been linked liver and kidney damage among other serious health issues. These toxic substances are especially dangerous to children because their bodies are still developing. In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that certain PFAS chemicals could migrate out of microwave popcorn bags and contaminate popcorn. In 2007 publication from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested 17 types of microwave popcorn from eight different brands and detected PFAS in the air released from just-heated popcorn bags, suggesting people might also inhale these chemicals when eating microwave popcorn.
Jose Bravo, Coordinator of the Campaign for Healthier Solutions, said, "Our testing found that dollar store customers and their families may be exposed to a wide array of hazardous chemicals, most of which are under-regulated by authorities. Adding to this problem, dollar stores have committed to doing almost nothing beyond their minimum legal requirements to protect people who have no other shopping options. Although there are nontoxic ways to make microwave popcorn, we found dollar store shelves full of toxic varieties and had trouble finding safe and simple popping corn."
All major microwave popcorn brands tested contained PFAS, including ACT II, Pop Secret, Orville Redenbacher's, Popweaver, Regal Cinemas, and Clover Valley. And while it's quick and easy to make popcorn without toxic bags, consumers need popcorn kernels to do it. Dollar stores frequently do not provide toxin-free alternatives or take additional actions to protect their customers as other major retailers have.
Caroline Cox, Senior Scientist at the Center for Environmental Health, said, "These toxic chemicals were found in every microwave popcorn bag we tested. This is particularly alarming for children, whose bodies are still developing. All kids–regardless of where they shop, income level, or race–deserve equal access to healthy, toxic-free popcorn."
Helga Garza, a local community activist from Albuquerque, NM, said, "I was shocked to learn that microwave popcorn contains chemicals that could make me or my children sick. Why would these companies put things in food that make us sick? Why would stores sell these products? Many people can't afford to shop at more expensive stores or drive to other options, but that doesn't mean they should be exposed to dangerous chemicals in their food. It's time for dollar stores to do more to protect their customers and our children."
The video and testing, coordinated by the Campaign for Healthier Solutions (CHS) and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), is part of a larger effort to raise awareness about the dangers of PFAS and convince discount retailers including Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Dollar General, and 99 Cents Only to embrace greater corporate responsibility and protect the health of customers and their families. Spurred by studies showing hazardous chemicals are commonly found in many dollar store products (summary and report, BPA in canned food) and a failure to respond to these concerns compared to competing chains (retailer comparison), these activists are calling for more protective and transparent chemical safety policies.
Photos, resources, and video for use with articles are available upon request.
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions is a diverse coalition of over 100 environmental justice, medical, public health, community, and women's organizations working with discount retailers toward responsible hazardous chemical policies and better corporate citizenship.
The Center for Environmental Health is a national nonprofit committed to ending health threats from toxic chemicals in our air, water, food and in products we use every day. We protect children and families from harmful chemicals by working with communities, consumers, workers, and government to demand and support safer business practices. We also work with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices.